Energy Transmission

In 2015, U.S. clean energy investment hit a record $329 billion, due in part to advancements in transmission and storage technologies that smooth out renewable generation variability and make these sources more practical and reliable contributors to the grid.

Key Contacts

Timothy L. McMahan Partner Portland, OR
Erin L. Anderson Partner Seattle, WA
Jason Johns Partner Portland, OR
Aaron C. Courtney Partner Portland, OR
See all contacts
Overview

For more than 25 years, our energy team has worked with utilities and independent power producers on development and operation of high-voltage transmission lines and interconnection facilities across the United States. These projects require sophisticated legal advisers who are able to navigate a complex federal, state and local energy regulatory framework, as well as land use, environmental compliance, financing and contracting issues associated with transmission infrastructure construction and operation.  

Few major law firms have our experience and reputation in energy transmission projects. We’ve advised our clients concerning interstate transmission lines crossing multiple states, tribal lands, private property, and lands and natural resources managed and regulated by various federal agencies, including the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and associated natural resource regulatory compliance strategies.

We’ve advised independent power producers on transmission strategies in connection with power plant development in transmission-constrained areas, including siting generator intertie lines to move power from remote locations to regional substations. And as our utility clients face a growing need to expand and modernize local and regional transmission lines and substations, we are on the front line in addressing and resolving the conflicts between existing land uses and the need for critical infrastructure.

We also actively participate in industry associations—such as the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative—that focus on consumer research, outreach and best practices for utilities, suppliers and vendors. Our leadership as legal advisers on energy transmission projects comes from our collective experience,  industry knowledge and reputation for collaborative approaches with all parties to a project. 

Our Services

  • Compliance and proceedings before Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and local and state energy facility siting bodies and regulators
  • Representation at stakeholder proceedings
  • Interconnection strategy, negotiations and agreements with regional transmission organizations and utilities
  • Negotiation and drafting of precedent agreements, transmission services agreements and joint ownership and facilities use agreements related to interconnection strategies
  • Negotiations with Tribal entities and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to secure rights-of-way across Tribal lands and in ceded Native American territories
  • Purchase and sale of interconnection and transmission services including due diligence and assessment of interconnection and transmission issues
  • Energy storage agreements
  • Equipment procurement and construction contracts
  • Advice on real estate, condemnation and land use issues
  • Federal rights-of-way acquisition, including BLM and Forest Service lands, and associated National Environmental Policy Act compliance
  • Local, state and federal permitting and environmental compliance including U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permitting, Endangered Species Act take negotiations and compliance, and migratory bird and other protected species conservation planning
  • Litigation, dispute resolution and appeals related to defending project proponents against administrative and judicial permit challenges, regulatory enforcement actions and third-party lawsuits
Matters
  • We represented Portland General Electric in its attempt to permit the Cascade Crossing Transmission Project (200-mile, 500kV), which was proposed to connect new and existing power sources east of the Oregon Cascades to PGE’s metropolitan service area. Cascade Crossing was one of seven national priority electrical transmission line projects designated by President Obama. We advised PGE on all elements of site acquisition, permitting (including federal lands and environmental matters) and project construction. PGE suspended the permitting effort in 2013 due to changed market conditions.
  • Representing NW Natural in connection with all EFSC permitting and compliance matters for the NW Natural Mist Underground Natural Gas Storage Field.  We represented NW Natural in its gas storage field expansion planning and development.   In 2016 we successfully completed a multi-year effort to secure local, state and federal permits for the construction and operation of an expanded underground natural gas storage field (doubling the Mist Field’s capacity) and installation of a 13-mile 24-inch high-capacity transmission pipeline.  The expanded storage field will deliver “on demand” gas service to Portland General Electric’s Port Westward II gas generation facility for the purpose of integrating renewable energy into the Portland metropolitan electrical grid.
  • Advised a wave energy developer on strategic permitting issues for a wave energy project on the Oregon coast, including federal licensing, ESA and MMPA permitting, and coastal zone issues; negotiated and drafted agreement with federal, state and non-governmental stakeholders resolving all issues for a 35-year license term.
  • Assisting Rocky Mountain Power in the siting, permitting and right of way development of the Gateway Central Corridor, which is part of PacifiCorp's larger Energy Gateway project. We have represented the company before the Bureau of Land Management, in the NEPA EIS process, and before the Utah Public Service Commission in the proceedings seeking a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. We are also currently representing the company before the state's Utility Facility Review Board. Gateway Central is the first 500kV transmission line corridor located in the state of Utah.
  • Representing the developer of Wind Spirit Project in connection with a transmission collector line to access new wind generation from across the Northern Plains, firm the energy with pumped storage generation and other firming assets, and deliver the energy as a baseload product to the Southwest. We are advising the developer broadly on strategy, contract issues, project permitting and other matters related to the project.
  • Advising Wind on the Wires and a coalition of wind developers it has formed to address MISO's assignment of 90% of the cost responsibility for the proposed $725 million Brookings County 345kV transmission line to approximately 12 wind projects.
  • We represent companies in the negotiation of precedent agreements to secure firm rights on new transmission projects.
  • We assist many of our energy developer clients in resolving issues with transmission providers relating to interconnection of generation resources. If a reasonable resolution cannot be reached, we also represent our client in securing favorable determinations from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on the interconnection agreement matters in dispute. 
Team
Insights & Presentations
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